Discussion paper looks at increasing availability of agricultural land for new entrants

A simpler and more intelligible framework is now required in Scotland to open up the farming letting sector again and promote farming as a viable option for the next generation.

That’s the message in a new paper, ‘Encouraging agricultural lettings in Scotland for the 21st Century’, the fourth in a series of independent discussion papers from the Scottish Land Commission, aimed at stimulating debate about making more of Scotland’s land.

The framework needs to include both simpler tenancy law and a more commercial, business-minded and flexible approach to unlock more land for farm lettings.

In the paper, the author Jeremy Moody, maps the decline in the tenanted farming sector over the past century and the current, complex environment of different and sometimes overlapping, rules.

He assesses the past and current issues facing landlords and tenants including the perception among landlords that land letting is ‘high risk and low return’ and considers wider questions around the political climate and future changes in the context of Brexit.

The paper puts forward a number of proposals including a new income tax relief as an innovative way of addressing increasing land availability. This tax-based approach, seems likely to release more land; evidence from the Republic of Ireland suggests a significant increase in lettings there, following the adoption of a similar relief in 2015.

The paper’s author argues that letting is declining in Scotland despite a strong demand for access to land from new entrants and existing farmers needing to expand or improve the viability of their enterprises.

The Land Commission’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, said:

“For a thriving tenant farming sector there needs to be a steady flow of new entrants to drive innovation and best practice, improve efficiencies and contribute towards the economic vitality of the sector.

“The Commission is looking at ways to stimulate the tenant farming sector and increase the availability of agricultural land. We commissioned this paper to encourage debate around the different approaches and incentives for letting of land.  We will discuss it at the next meeting of the Tenant Farming Advisory Forum in July and we’d welcome written responses by email, ahead of that meeting.

“The different approaches need to be considered alongside the work we’re doing on the current succession and retirement options for farmers and landowners.”

Speaking about his paper, Jeremy Moody said that promoting a positive attitude among both tenant farmers and landowners, “…depends on good quality relationships, with sympathy between the parties and positive approach by advisers. The approach should be to see that a good relationship for farming land should be mutually beneficial.”

Read the Land Lines discussion paper here.